In all of 2016, there were 4 cases of bubonic plague reported from New Mexico. In June 2017, 3 cases have been reported already that have required hospitalization. Public health officials are trying to determine the environmental factors related to these cases in hopes of preventing addition cases. Bubonic plague can be transmitted by rat fleas from infected rodents to humans or other animals. In the cases under investigation, contact between pets and infected rodents may have provided a bridge for fleas to move to the pet and later bite the pet owner.
To limit the rodent-flea-pet-human pathway, the New Mexico Department of Health recommends:
Appropriate flea control products on your pets
Clean up areas near the house where rodents could live, such as woodpiles, brush piles, junk and abandoned vehicles.
Have sick pets examined promptly by a veterinarian.
Consult a doctor about any unexplained illness involving a sudden and high fever.
Put hay, wood, and compost piles as far as possible from your home.
Don’t leave your pet’s food and water where mice can get to it.
Plague is treatable with antibiotics and most recover if diagnosed and treated early in the infection. The CDC will send notices to doctors if plague cases spike in an area.